The largest-known find of gold coins from Anglo-Saxon England has been recovered from a field in West Norfolk. Buried shortly after AD 600, when East Anglia was one of the most important Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the hoard includes 131 gold coins, mostly Frankish tremisses, as well as nine solidi and a larger Byzantine coin worth three tremisses. The presence of four other gold items – a bracteate (stamped pendant), a small bar, and what are thought to be two fragments of jewellery – suggests that the coins were being used as bullion.
An initial gold coin was unearthed in 1990, but most of the hoard was discovered between 2014 and 2020 by a single anonymous metal-detectorist. This individual reported their finds to the authorities, but a second detectorist, David Cockle, failed to do so, instead attempting to sell the ten coins he had found in the same field. In 2017, he was sentenced to 16 months in prison for theft.
HM Coroner for Norfolk is holding an inquest to determine whether the hoard constitutes Treasure and property of the Crown. The case includes all the finds from 2014 onwards (though two of Cockle’s sold coins are unrecovered), but not the 1990 coin as its discovery pre-dates the 1996 Treasure Act.
Gareth Williams, British Museum Curator of Early Medieval Coins, said: ‘This is a hugely important find. It is close in date to the famous ship burial from Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and although it doesn’t contain as much gold as the whole of the Sutton Hoo burial, it contains many more coins… It must be seen alongside other recent finds from East Anglia and elsewhere, and will help to transform our understanding of the economy of early Anglo-Saxon England.’
Norwich Castle Museum hopes to obtain the hoard, with the British Museum’s support. All finders of potential Treasure in England and Wales are legally obliged to report their discovery to the local coroner within 14 days. For more information on the definition of Treasure, and how to report such finds, see www.finds.org.uk/treasure. In Scotland, metal-detected finds are covered by the Scottish Treasure Trove Unit (https://treasuretrovescotland.co.uk).